On her first visit to the UK, the 17-year-old incredibly eagled the 2nd and 3rd holes at Hunstanton – the latter with a holed approach – on her way to a seven-under-par round of 66 and a 36-hole total of eight-under to lead 64 qualifiers through to the match play stages.
Yamashita, who qualified for the championship after winning The Royal Golf Club Junior event in her homeland, finished on the same mark as Italian Emilie Alba Paltrinieri but secured top spot on card countback.
The Royal Junior is held by Nippon Kabaya Oyaho Holdings, a sponsor of the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship, and supported by The R&A.
“I wasn't really thinking about being top qualifier but I really enjoyed playing and I'm very happy,” she said. “I’ve never managed two eagles like that. On the second hole, it was a par-5 and I got on in two and had a long putt that went in.
“On the third hole, the second shot went in the hole directly which was very lucky. But I enjoyed it. It’s my first time in the UK and I’m very proud. I enjoy match play.”
In glorious scoring conditions on the Norfolk coast, Paltrinieri displayed the form that has seen her shine in R&A championships in recent years after she signed for back-to-back rounds of 69. The 20-year-old won the Girls’ Amateur title in 2016 at Royal St David’s and lost in the semi-finals of the Women’s Amateur in 2020.
She commented, “I'm happy with my attitude on the course. I was pretty calm and steady throughout the 36 holes.
“My short game was amazing. I made some very long putts, which I'm happy about. And tomorrow, I mean, it's a new tournament starting. I love match play, I think it's fun. You can take a few aggressive lines and you never know until the end. So I'm excited.”
Another Italian, Alessandra Fanali, who lost in a three-way play-off to Morgane Metraux at the Ladies Italian Open on the Ladies European Tour earlier this month, again impressed to finish on seven-under after a 70 on day two, with countrywoman Anna Zanusso fourth on six-under.
“It was a very good day, birdie, birdie on the first two holes and I kept going,” said Fanali. “I made two other two birdies and was four-under after 11 holes. Then I got a little bit slow, made some bogeys, but finished good with a birdie on 18.
“I like this tournament. I've been playing very good here so I'm excited for the next days.”
Curtis Cup player Hannah Darling comfortably qualified on five-under-par, helped by a blistering run of six birdies in her opening 11 holes, along with Spaniard Carla Bernat. The Scot is bidding to win a third R&A championship after securing the Girls’ Amateur title last year and the Girls’ U16 Amateur honours in 2018.
“I did what I needed to do, made the qualifying cut, and that's all you need to do right now,” said the Broomieknowe member. “There was a lot of good stuff in there and it's been a promising few days but there's a few things I need to go and work on for tomorrow and for the next few days. I’m happy enough with how it's gone.
“The Curtis Cup was great, it didn't go the way I wanted it to but I love playing for a team. I always have. I've been on some good form over the last few months and I just need to keep it going.”